Dozens of eligible underclassmen have or will announce in the coming weeks that they are leaving early for the NFL, with each carrying various degrees of impact on their respective team’s prospects for the 2013 season.
This one will likely have as big of an impact as any other.
Largely overlooked and undervalued outside of Chapel Hill specifically and the ACC in general over the past two seasons, Giovani Bernard announced that he has decided to leave North Carolina and enter the 2013 NFL draft. The running back, who likely would’ve been included in the preseason Heisman mix, is foregoing his final two years of eligibility to make the leap.
A press conference has been scheduled for 2 p.m. ET today for Bernard to discuss the decision.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my three years in Chapel Hill and coming to UNC was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” said Bernard in a statement released ahead of the press conference. “I feel like the best decision for my future is to enter the NFL draft this year. I want to thank Coach Fedora, this coaching staff and the previous coaching staff for putting me in a position to succeed. I am on track to graduate and I plan on coming back to earn my degree in the Spring of 2014.”
A torn ACL suffered during summer camp cost Bernard all of his true freshman season in 2010, but the redshirt sophomore came back to earn All-ACC first-team honors the past two seasons. He led the conference in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yardage in 2012, and led the nation in punt returns average (16.4 yards per).
He accomplished all of that this season despite missing two games with a left knee issue.
“Gio is a special player and an even better person,” said UNC head coach Larry Fedora. “He flourished in our offense and was an outstanding leader for our program. After the season was over, we helped him gather as much information as possible so he and his family could make the best decision for his future. We support his decision and wish him nothing but success as he takes the next step in his football career. He is a tremendous ambassador for this program.”
Depending on which direction other players at his position take before the mid-January deadline, the 5-10, 205-pound Bernard could be the first running back selected in the upcoming draft.
Just a little over a month after leaving South Carolina, Connor Mitch has found himself a new college football home.
On Twitter Monday, Mitch revealed that he will continue his collegiate playing career at James Madison. As the Dukes play at the FCS level, and Mitch himself is a recent graduate of USC, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2016.
Additionally, Mitch will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Mitch started the first two games of the 2015 season for the Gamecocks before a hip injury and shoulder injury knocked him out for the remainder of the year.
Part of a five-man competition in the spring, Mitch fell behind the current front-runner, freshman Brandon McIlwain, as well as a pair of quarterbacks injured for portions of the spring, senior Perry Orth and sophomore Lorenzo Nunez. That positioning on the depth chart apparently led to his mid-May transfer.
During his time in Columbia, Mitch completed 15-of-35 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. He also added 48 yards and another touchdown on 17 carries.
Another former Baylor Bear has found himself a landing spot, although this time it’s not rival Texas that’s the beneficiary.
On Twitter overnight, Kam Martin announced that he has committed to play his college football for the Auburn Tigers. The running back’s decision came shortly after the Texas native took a visit to The Plains.
Martin opted for Auburn over TCU.
“The main reason I committed to Auburn was because it’s family, man,” Martin told SEC Country in an interview after announcing his decision. “Those guys did everything that I wanted to hear and everything speaks for itself. It’s the SEC, one of the biggest fan bases in the nation and I just want to be a part of something big and special.”
Martin was one of five 2016 Baylor signees who were granted releases by the university from their National Letters of Intent last week. A four-star 2016 signee according to 247Sports.com, the 5-10, 178-pound Johnson was rated as the No. 7 all-purpose back in the country; the No. 39 player at any position in the state of Texas; and the No. 268 player overall on that recruiting website’s composite board.
As is the case with other 2016 Bears signees who have fled Waco, Johnson will be eligible to play immediately in 2016.
In Auburn’s 113-year history, it’s never played a Big Ten opponent in a regular season game. That’ll change in five years.
Penn State and Auburn announced Monday morning a home-and-home series to take place in 2021 and 2022. The first game will be played in State College on Sept. 18, 2021 and the return will take place at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Sept. 17, 2022.
“This is another great opportunity for our players and fans to be part of something special,” Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs said. “Bringing together elite programs rich in tradition is what college football is all about. We look forward to this home-and-home series with Penn State.”
Making matters betters is the home-and-home nature of this series, instead of playing it as a neutral site one-off to begin a season. Those games are fun (and, far more importantly, generate a ton of revenue) but having Penn State travel to Alabama and Tigers fans going to State College is a far better experience for traveling fanbases.
Auburn and Penn State have met twice before in bowl games, with the most recent meeting a 13-9 Tigers win in the 2003 Capital One Bowl.
Penn State also added a 2021 home game against Ball State on Monday, per ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.
Notre Dame rising redshirt junior wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr.‘s status with Brian Kelly’s football team won’t change after he signed with the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend.
Hunter is Notre Dame’s leading returning receiver after catching 28 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns last year. But even though he now has a professional baseball contract, his focus will remain on football and the beginning of preseason camp in August.
Hunter, the son of former Minnesota Twins, Angels and Detroit Tigers All-Star/Gold Glover Torii Hunter Sr., was a 23rd-round pick in this year’s MLB Draft.
Hunter, an outfielder, was primarily used as a pinch runner and defensive replacement for Mik Aoki’s Irish baseball team this spring. He worked a crazy schedule (“what is sleep?” he asked) to split time between baseball, spring football and classwork in March and April and hit .182/.308/.182 in 11 at-bats.
Hunter’s baseball highlight came at Florida State, though, a few days after he made a spectacular catch reeling in a Malik Zaire deep ball in Notre Dame’s Blue and Gold Game.